December 13, 2009
A national study will rely on 7,000 pairs of female twins to investigate the link between cervical cancer and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Professor Suzanne Garland of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women’s Hospital says little is known about how the initial infection can progress to cervical cancer.
She says the study is a world-first and the twins will offer a novel opportunity to compare genetic and environmental factors.
“It’s really simple, all they have to do is give consent so we can look at their pap smears,” she said.
“It’s an important project, we need more twins for it, it’s to try and understand what the host factors and environmental factors are in causing cervical cancer.”
She says about 80 per cent of women are exposed to the virus at some point in their lives.
“We really don’t understand how the virus causes the cancer, it’s probably complex and environmental factors as well as host factors,” she said.
“In other words, that is why we are studying twins – we are hoping they are able to unravel the genetic from the environmental factors.”